A year and a half after Jon Beckel's mysterious death, a civil trial began Monday alleging that Legacy-Good Samaritan Hospital contributed to his demise.
Beckel, the co-founder of the eclectic dining institution Montage, fell on a Southwest Portland street in the early-morning hours of July 1, 2000. At the time, his blood-alcohol level was 0.30 percent--almost four times the legal limit of 0.08 percent. The 39-year-old had recently moved back to Portland following a self-imposed exile in San Francisco. Emergency personnel transported Beckel, who was bleeding from his forehead, to Good Samaritan's emergency room.
He was released later that morning into the hands of Portland police, who arrested Beckel on outstanding DUII warrants and took him to the downtown Justice Center. While there, he was physically restrained by corrections officers. Beckel later collapsed at the jail and was taken to Oregon Health and Science University with a subdural hematoma. He died on July 6, after being removed from life support.
Initially, it appeared that his rough treatment at the hands of jail personnel might have contributed to his death (see "What Happened to Jon Beckel?" WW, July 12, 2000) But the $3.5 million wrongful-death lawsuit, filed by Beckel's father, Robert, contends that Good Sam should never have let the cops take him to jail. Robert Beckel did not return phone calls from WW, but Charles Paulson, the family's attorney, says that jail personnel did not injure Beckel. Instead, Paulson says, the hospital should have caught that Beckel was bleeding into his brain by performing a CAT scan and that it should not have released him without determining whether he had a neurological injury.
Maggie Huffman, a spokeswoman for Legacy, said she couldn't comment on matters of pending litigation. An earlier review of records by WW showed that Beckel did not receive a scan. In videotaped trial testimony, Johnny Delashaw, an OHSU neurosurgeon who operated on Beckel, said a scan should be performed on patients who are inebriated and have head injuries. He said a scan of Beckel would have allowed earlier surgical intervention and improved his survival odds.